By David Kligman
OAKLAND — When concerned community members wanted to improve safety in their Oakland neighborhood, the city turned to PG&E for help.
PG&E is assisting Oakland by upgrading streetlights with new energy-efficient lighting that provides brighter, more natural light to help improve public safety.
The work is happening along four major thoroughfares in East Oakland, where city officials today (Oct. 11) applauded PG&E for helping Oakland replace 241 city-owned streetlight fixtures with new, energy-efficient light-emitting diode bulbs, also known as LED streetlights.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and other city officials joined PG&E to show off the impact of the new lighting.
“We know that if you have light on the street then it tends to reduce crime and tends to make the area safer,” Quan said.
Quan said the city hopes to expand the program, upgrading as many as 30,000 more streetlights throughout the entire city.
For the past week, an independent contractor working for PG&E used bucket trucks to reach the streetlights, removing and replacing the old fixtures with new LED lights. The project is expected to be completed on Monday.
The project was the result of concerned community members who attended a City Council meeting in September 2011. They asked council members to increase lighting in the city’s crime-ridden areas.
‘We were able to get it done’
Soon after, council member Desley Brooks ran into PG&E’s Tom Guarino, a government relations representative, in downtown Oakland and told him about the request. It was the collaboration between the city and PG&E that got the project rolling, she said.
“This didn’t get done until a group of citizens came together and pushed for this project,” Brooks said. “They understood what public safety is in a community. And I really say hats off to all the people at PG&E for making this a reality. We were able to get it done.”
Thoroughfares selected were Seminary Avenue and International Boulevard, International Boulevard near 98th Avenue, MacArthur Boulevard near 73rd Avenue and International Boulevard near 73rd Avenue.
Deputy Police Chief Eric Breshears said the new lighting eliminated glare and shadows, making it safer for residents. It also will provide better images for security cameras, he said.
“One of our goals at the police department with this project is to reduce the opportunity for crime from the criminals who are preying on our community,” he said. “What this lighting really does is provide more uniform lighting.”
Cities can save money
But the advantages extend beyond better lighting. The new lights also will reduce the city’s energy costs by nearly $20,000 a year and remove the yearly equivalent of more than 79,000 pounds of greenhouse gases from the environment.
The city also will receive some $34,000 in PG&E incentives.
Oakland is just one of the dozens of Northern and Central California cities that PG&E has worked with since 2009 to upgrade streetlights as part of the utility’s LED Street Light Turnkey Replacement Service.
The PG&E program provides a one-stop solution for local communities seeking to implement lighting retrofit projects. The utility assists cities with inventory and paperwork to access rebates and grants to cover costs.
In all, cities have replaced nearly 22,000 lights and saved a combined $1 million in energy costs.
Like other cities, Oakland’s lighting has been around for decades. The high-pressure sodium-vapor lights generally last about 10 years compared with the smaller, flatter square-like LED lights that can last 25 years.
Saving energy, boosting safety
PG&E’s Roxanne Fong, manager of new revenue development for PG&E, said more cities are swapping out streetlights as they see the benefits from other communities.
“We’re trying to get creative with offering every type of funding available to get these projects done,” she said. “It just makes sense. It’s really one of the quicker ways to get instant savings from energy efficiency. And the safety element is just another benefit. It’s a double whammy.”
At the end of today’s event, the contract crew replaced one of the 241 lights. When the light went on, the city officials cheered.
“There are places in this city that are so dark that you can’t see someone’s face at night,” Brooks said. “With this lighting we’ll be able to see like it’s Christmas.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.